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Irvine High School to get solar panelsBy Jennifer Lance

Students in the sunny southern California town of Irvine will soon attend schools powered by photovoltaic panels.  In November,

Irvine Unified School District's Board of Trustees unanimously voted to install solar at all of their 21 school sites.  Partnering with the solar industry, this green energy renovation will not cost taxpayers a penny.

Solar installations at Irvine's schools is expected to provide 20% of the district's energy needs.  Riverside school board member Shelley Yarbrough explains:

This is the most comprehensive solar program rollout for a school district in the country, and will be one of the largest solar installations of any school system in the country…The school district may be installing the solar panels on the roofs, but the district is taking solar into the classroom as well, with a full complement of courses that will take advantage of all the information this system provides. That to me means math, physics, computers, technology, business, finance and even art. I think the resources they are devoting to this is also unprecedented.

Partnering with SunEdison and SPG Solar has made this project practical in a state that is cash strapped for education.  In order to make it possible, the district is leasing portions of the school properties to the solar companies. Final design plans for each site will have to be approved individually by the school board.  The Orange County Register explains how the partnership works:

Sun Edison will build and run the solar systems at their own expense.  In return, the company will take advantage of tax credits the school district isn't eligible for.  Along with providing renewable and clean energy, the agreement also allows schools to purchase energy apredictable costs, Irvine Unified officials said.  It will also allow district staffers and students to see continuous energy usage updates online.

Envriothink reports the solar Irvine schools will "generate more than 6.6 million kilowatt hours of solar energy in just the first year" and "offset 127 million pounds of CO2, the equivalent of removing more than 12,000 cars from the road for one year".  The expected savings for the school district is $17 million over two decades.

I wish my daughter's school district could become involved in such a program. Although we have received modernization monies from the state of California, this funding never goes towards renewable energy. For example, my daughter's school got a new roof a few year ago, and the roofers could not believe that the project did not include increasing the insulation to prevent heating and cooling losses.  Saving money on energy usage is one way schools can overcome budget cuts. Partnering with the renewable energy sector only makes sense as the workable way to make it happen.

Photo by OctopusHat

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